§ 2. Mr. David Atkinson
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the current situation in Nagorno Karabakh.
§ Mr. Douglas Hogg
There has been a further recent escalation in the fighting in Nagorno Karabakh following an offensive by the Armenian forces there. We are concerned by reports of hundreds of further casualties in recent weeks. We urge the parties to the dispute to heed the call by the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe for a ceasefire and to negotiate constructively in the talks being held under CSCE auspices.
§ Mr. Atkinson
Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that those negotiations are unlikely to succeed without a ceasefire? Will he commend to both sides in the Nagorno Karabakh dispute the Atkinson peace plan, which was put to both sides in Strasbourg last September, as a realistic way forward—not least to avoid the genocide and ethnic cleansing which would undoubtedly occur in the area if the promised Azeri spring offensive were allowed to take place in the next few weeks?
§ Mr. Hogg
Before I commend the Atkinson peace plan to the House, I congratulate my hon. Friend on our involvement and that of our noble Friend Lady Cox in the question of Nagorno Karabakh.
I substantially agree with the peace plan. It stresses the need for a ceasefire; it stresses that there can be no change in frontiers; it makes the important point that the future of Nagorno Karabakh lies in its existence as an autonomous 923 region within Azerbaijan; and it emphasises the importance of a number of confidence-building measures, with all of which I agree.
§ Rev. Martin Smyth
I join the Minister in congratulating the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Atkinson) on his activities in this regard. Does the Minister agree, however, that the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe could do more and that the Muslim community in our own nation should help Muslim communities elsewhere to show the same tolerance that Christians show them here?
§ Mr. Hogg
I certainly think that the CSCE is the leading international organisation in terms of promoting a ceasefire and subsequent negotiations. It may, indeed, be the leading organisation if and when a peacekeeping force becomes necessary. I do not think that it makes sense for any of the parties to think that they would do well to transfer the negotiations to the United Nations; let us keep them within the CSCE.
On the hon. Gentleman's latter point, the answer may be yes; it would be necessary to explore particular methods, but it is worth thinking about.